This past week, I travelled with Libby on my first riding visit to Vancouver East. On Tuesday morning, we had the honour of attending a ceremony at the Victoria Square Cenotaph for National Aboriginal Veterans Day.
Many people do not know that National Aboriginal Veterans Day takes place each year on November 8th (three days before Remembrance Day) in order to recognize the special contribution Aboriginal veterans have made to protect our country and the freedoms we enjoy. More than 7,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people have proudly served their country, with over five hundred of them having lost their lives doing so. But for many years, Aboriginal veterans were discriminated against - being unjustly denied the recognition and benefits given to all other veterans in Canada.
The ceremony began with a parade to the cenotaph from the Carnegie Community Centre. We then heard from various community leaders on the importance of honouring our Aboriginal veterans and the challenges they still face. The ceremony also included a number of traditional Aboriginal songs and the laying of wreaths on the memorial. Despite the rain and cold, the turn-out was good with more people attending from the previous year. I was grateful for the opportunity to remember those Aboriginal veterans whose efforts, courage, and sacrifice is all too often forgotten.
My riding-visit with Libby had to be cut short in order for me to return to Ottawa to spend Remembrance Day (November 11th) at the Perley Rideau Veterans Home with my own grandfather, a 93 year-old veteran of WWII.
This was a special Remembrance Day for my family. For the past couple of years, we have been reading through old documents and letters to try to uncover what my grandfather actually did during the months and years of the war. We managed to slowly piece together a timeline of my grandfather beginning as a local defense volunteer in London, then training in the British Army throughout England, and ending up as an infantry in Canada’s Algonquin Regiment where he was posted in Germany and Holland.
After the ceremony on Friday, we presented my grandfather with a frame that included the timeline we compiled, a list of all his medals, and his original army photo. He was very appreciative of the gift because over the decades his memories of what he did during the war have faded. I learned that the value of Remembrance Day is not only for the public to honour those who have defended our country. It is also for veterans themselves to remember the bravery they showed and challenges they overcame during times of war.
Andrew Cuddy is a non-partisan Parliamentary Intern working in the office of Libby Davies.